Australia's big gay Web site SameSame has released their list of 2009's most influential gay Aussie, and Matthew Mitcham is one of the highlights. The Olympic gold medalist's story from 2008 still resonates with people: Openly gay and taking on the Chinese in the pool. Also on the list was Aaron Neich (right, in the pic above), a cheerleader for the Penrith Panthers rugby team.
What struck me about the site's write-up is the continued pushing of this idea that Mitcham lost endorsement deals because he's gay.
"He's my hero," says Michael Kirby about Mitcham. "He is a young man who's been out, and he's done it at great cost. I've never lost a cent by being out. Matthew lost millions of dollars, he did this for us. He's the top of my heroes. He's a symbol."
There's just no evidence of that whatsoever. Yes, Mitcham is gay and yes, he's had trouble getting endorsement deals. But he's also in a "lesser" sport. And he also took a six-week vacation in the crucial moments after his Gold medal win. And he also rose to stardom just as the world sank into recession. And he also turned down an endorsement deal from AussieBum. To say that he lost all this money because he's gay is simply unfounded.
Regardless, Mitcham is a real beacon of light for gay people and gay athletes, and we hope to see much more of him in the years to come!